Lebanon News

Top expert warns of 'Lebanese variant' to COVID-19

Director of the Rafic Hariri University Hospital, Firass Abiad, speaks to medics inside the coronavirus department in the capital Beirut, on July 28, 2020. AFP / ANWAR AMRO

BEIRUT: Top expert Dr. Firass Abiad warned Tuesday that Lebanon could see the emergence of its own COVID-19 variant if the virus continued to spread widely and its genetic makeup remained weakly monitored.

"During last year, Lebanon was in the headlines for all the wrong reasons. Will this year bring another: the Lebanon Covid variant?" Abiad, head of Beirut's Rafik Hariri University Hospital, wrote in a thread of tweets. "High community transmission allow the virus the perfect environment to mutate and adapt, and Covid has proven itself very good at that."

He wrote other factors concerning him were the country's loose border control and a weak COVID virus genetic surveillance program.

"The conditions are ripe, as other variants travel into the country, spread undetected, and have the chance to mutate with every transmission," Abiad wrote.

RHUH is the epicenter of the fight against the coronavirus that has claimed nearly 3,700 victims and infected more than 322,000 people in Lebanon.

Abiad added that if a new variant does emerge in Lebanon like it did in Brazil and South Africa, it would have far reaching ramifications.

"The global spread of variants have shown that no country is safe unless all countries are. It is therefore imperative that @mophleb (Health Ministry) gets the support it needs to control the transmission and expand its surveillance program," he wrote.

"The aim of this tweet is not to frighten, but to educate. The more we know about the virus, the more we can plan and take the appropriate actions. With Covid, complacency have proven to be very costly. So has wishful thinking. As they say, fortune favors the prepared."

Lebanon is set to start its inoculation campaign next week and officials hope that 80 percent of the country's 6 million population would be vaccinated by year-end of early 2022.





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